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Gallery: USC tops St. Clair

Derek Herman of USC leaps over a St. Clair defender Friday on Senior Night in Wells. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Derek Herman of USC leaps over a St. Clair defender Friday on Senior Night in Wells. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

WELLS — An opportunistic defense and a potent passing attack propelled the United South Central football team to a win on Senior Night.

The Rebels forced five turnovers and quarterback Luke Trio threw five touchdown passes Friday in a 37-27 win over St. Clair.

Trio completed 14-of-23 throws for 262 yards, while the Cyclones were held to 269 yards of total offense.

“He’s getting better and better every game,” USC coach Brad Huse said of his first-year starter at quarterback. “He’s getting time to throw, and he’s got four good receivers that he can go to. Any one of those guys can make the plays.”

All four receivers proved Huse’s point against St. Clair. Nate Pederson led the Rebels with five catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Colin Wegner had similar numbers with five catches for 83 yards and one touchdown. Both grabs for Riley Kloos were touchdowns, and Cody Latusek had two receptions for 35 yards.

Wegner and Kloos also caught passes from St. Clair’s quarterback. Wegner had a game-high two picks, and Kloos had one.

The first score of the game was an 11-yard strike from Trio to Kloos. The duo found the end zone again with 2:31 left in the third quarter on the Rebels’ longest scoring play of the evening — a 49-yard catch and run — to push their lead to 16 points.

“I caught it in the flat and beat my guy around the outside, picked up some great blocks from Colin Wegner and Cody Latusek and it was an open lane to the end zone,” said Kloos. “Trio is getting a lot more confident throwing his passes. He’s confident in us. We’re confident in him. We’re looking good.”

USC’s largest lead of the game (37-19) came nine seconds after the 49-yard pass play, when St. Clair quarterback T.J. Danks was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, which is a safety.

In the fourth quarter, Huse decided to pound the ball on the ground with Derek Herman.

“We could’ve thrown more in the second half, but I wanted to establish the run and keep that clock going,” he said.

Herman led USC with 91 yards on 26 carries. Jared Lammey added three carries for 10 yards.

Despite the fourth-quarter rushing barrage, the Cyclones won the time-of-possession battle by eight minutes. However, the Rebels’ defense held St. Clair in check with three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a fourth-down stand.

With 6:32 left in the game and a 35-19 lead, USC’s defense was backed up to its own 32-yard line. It was fourth-and-short for St. Clair, when Eli Johnson ran over his blocker and strung the play out to the sideline where his teammates stopped the Cyclones short for a turnover on downs.

“We came up big when we had to,” Huse said. “We had some breakdowns during the game — that’s going to happen — but we overcame them and scored 37 points, which is the most we’ve scored all year.”

Before Friday, the most points USC scored in a game was 21 in an eight-point home win against Mankato Loyola. St. Clair played the Crusaders last week and lost 53-12.

Next, USC (2-5 overall, 2-4 Gopher Valley A Conference) will host Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (5-2 overall, 5-0 Gopher Valley AA Conference) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. After starting the season 0-2, the Buccaneers have won five straight and are coming off a 21-7 home win Friday over No. 7 (2A) Maple River. It was the Eagles’ first loss of the season.